Feds Worried About Anarchists Gluing the Locks to a Government Facility

A FOIA request reveals what the FBI and Homeland Security had to say about anarchist activities on May Day 2015.


May Day was coming up and the feds were worried. In April 2015, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security sent out a bulletin warning that "anarchist extremists will probably engage in criminal or violent activity in one or more US cities on 1 May 2015 and may attempt to co-opt legal protest activity to carry out attacks."

It was the anniversary of the deadly 1886 labor unrest in Chicago's Haymarket. Several anarchists were executed for the violence back then, and in the 2015 bulletin's words, May 1 became "an international day honoring workers' rights that frequently results in anarchist extremist violence both domestically and internationally." To emphasize that anarchism was still a live threat, the Feds listed several recent anarchist attacks in their bulletin.

One of them, the firebombing of a congressional office in Kansas City, Missouri, was serious stuff. Police car tires were also slashed in Bloomington, Indiana; anonymous anarchists claimed online that the vandalism was in "Solidarity with the revolt in Ferguson." But another incident was more Parks and Recreation than V for Vendetta.

"In October 2014, 'some Bull City anarchists' chained the front door and glued the locks to a parking lot at a government facility in Durham, North Carolina, according to media reporting," the memo read. "The graffiti on the front of the building stated 'Solidarity with Missouri Rebels' and '[Expletive] the Police.'"

Reason was unable to locate any media reports from October 2014 mentioning the phrase "Bull City anarchists" or a parking lot incident in Durham like the one the bulletin describes.

Journalist Emma Best obtained a copy of the bulletin through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and published it to the public records platform MuckRock late last month. The FBI heavily redacted the version it sent Best. Reason also found an original copy of the bulletin in the BlueLeaks document dump, a trove of homeland security "fusion center" files released by hackers in June 2020.

The parts of the bulletin that the FBI had chosen to redact are a story unto themselves. The original version states that there is "no specific credible reporting to indicate anarchist extremists are planning violent criminal activity." But the FBI censored that line in the version it sent to MuckRock and Best under FOIA.

Curiously, the FOIA version also censored the assessment that "anti-police and law enforcement sentiment will likely continue to serve as a prominent motivator for anarchist extremists in 2015, barring any significant changes in anarchist extremist rhetoric or major public events that could galvanize anarchist extremists against other traditional targets."

Editorializing aside, that prediction turned out to be true. Anarchists played a significant role in the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and were often blamed for violence during the unrest. 

In the FOIA version of the bulletin, the FBI redacted its specific recommendations for local police, citing the "law enforcement techniques" exemption to the Freedom of Information Act. Not that any of the advice was hard to guess. Basically, if police see anarchists training or gathering weapons and barricade materials, they should be extra vigilant and try to confiscate the weapons.

But, the Feds warned, local police shouldn't get too paranoid.

"Some of these behavioral indicators may be constitutionally protected activities and should be supported by additional facts to justify increased suspicions," the bulletin noted. "Independently, each indicator may represent legitimate recreational or commercial activities; however, multiple indicators could suggest a heightened threat."